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Extend your brand to succeed under reform

Editor’s note: This article was written by guest blogger Anthony Cirillo, FACHE, ABC, a healthcare marketing and experience management expert and elder advocate. For more information about the author, please see our About page.

I returned from the National Council on Aging conference somewhat dismayed. While the conference is not necessarily about long-term care, you would have thought that it did not exist at all when listening to the speakers. Most of the topics were about aging in place and care options in the community. And then of course healthcare reform was passed in the days following. I personally believe that a country ranked 37th in the World Health Organization will have people who need long-term care services, despite the medical technology, devices, and pharmaceuticals that exist. Yet people seem to want to will the profession out of existence. So long-term care organizations need to take action by owning more of the pie.

One concept bantering about under reform is the notion of accountable care organizations, which is essentially a group of healthcare providers charged with the care of a given population. Most of this has been couched in terms of multiple hospitals (who may even compete with each other currently) as well as physician practices. But the notion could also extend to long-term care. An accountable care organization could include home health, adult medical day, DME, continuing care, assisted living, nursing homes, and hospice. The whole continuum of aging could therefore be one accountable care organization that is paid for the care of a given population outside of the hospital/physician relationship.

When an organization develops complementary products and services related to its brand, we marketers call them brand extensions. Given that most of the population and many of those involved in aging services want to believe that long-term care will not be needed or choose to believe it will not be needed by them, it may be smart for organizations to start thinking about their long-term PR as well as survival.

By controlling more of the continuum of care, organizations will be prepared for the implications of healthcare reform and they will be assuring the filling of their pipeline as people progress from one level of care to another. At the same time, the consistency of the brand experience over time will help develop loyalists and ambassadors for organizations that will continue to fill the pipeline for years to come.